When citizens are the victim

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Al-Madina

DURING a seminar on private-public sector cooperation and the role of contractors organized on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Jeddah Chamber for Commerce and Industry, the newly appointed mayor of the city warned sluggish contracting companies that they will be debarred and will not be able to bid for new contracts in the future.

He said there was a 90 percent delay overall in executing the projects of the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and a 40 percent delay in executing projects in Jeddah.

The mayor threatened to create a black list of irresponsible contractors, whose main job according to him is to win contracts and then subcontract them for execution.

The mayor said such contractors would be excluded and would not be part of the country’s development process in the future.

He asked how contractors with such mindsets could be trusted as partners in development. He said Jeddah was buried under tons of construction waste because of the contractors and the cleaning companies were playing their part in keeping the city filthy.

One of the contractors responded to the mayor’s accusations by expressing surprise. He asked how a person who comes from a business house to the mayor’s chair could change his attitude so easily. He said this sudden change of attitude would negatively affect the interests of the contracting sector.

He pointed out that many contractors did not receive their bills even though more than two years had passed after completing the projects awarded to them.

The contractor then said even if the chair of the mayor would not change, the person who sat on it would definitely change.

He said the mayor was responsible for providing basic services to the people and society in general through the work of contractors.

The argument between the mayor and the contractor went back and forth, each accusing the other of negligence and irresponsible behavior. Both claimed that the other was answerable to the public.

Whatever is the case, it is the citizen who suffers at the end of it all. This heated argument between a senior city official and a major contractor comes at a time when the government asserts time and again that the private sector is a partner in national development and it is launching initiatives to stimulate private sector growth.

Despite the fact that the discussion was transparent and candid in admitting many shortcomings on both sides, it did not offer any scientific solution to help extend any unique services to the citizens. Instead, both ended up in shifting blame and threatening each other with consequences.

The mayor, while threatening to prepare a black list of lousy contractors, even hinted that in future the municipality might carry out its projects by itself, instead of awarding them to outside contractors.

End of the day, citizens will be the victim of this heated argument and exchange of blame. Although the municipality considers the classification of contractors useless, it points out the importance of rehabilitating them. This is a step in the right direction to distinguish qualified contractors and rehabilitate the rest.

We need to appoint honest officials to supervise projects to ensure that they are carried out perfectly and without flaw. We need to lay out solutions to our existing problems. This way, we will support the private sector, which is an important partner in the country’s development.


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